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DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: The Red Balloon (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

Senior HTF Member
Apr 24, 2006
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough

The Red Balloon
Directed by Albert Lamorisse

Studio: Janus
Year: 1956
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 34 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 French
Subtitles: English
MSRP: $ 14.95

Release Date: April 29, 2008
Review Date: April 12, 2008

The Film


Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon is a charming, whimsical fantasy, as light as a bubble and just as effervescent. There’s a very slight story and some gorgeous views of Paris in this kind of modern day fairy tale that runs barely half an hour. Completely disarming and magical, it’s a slight delight that should be seen by all fans of world cinema.

Pascal Lamorisse (son of the director) stars as a six year old who, on his way to school, happens upon a red balloon wrapped around a lamppost. Freeing it from its tangle, the balloon becomes his new best friend, following him like a loyal puppy to the tram and then to school and then back home, none of the places where it finds itself welcome. But Pascal perseveres and rescues the balloon from being cast out of the house after which the lad finds that he doesn’t even have to hold the balloon. It follows him wherever he goes and resists efforts of others to take it away from Pascal. Alas, with such devotion comes the jealousy of others who decry a boy and his balloon and who make efforts to intervene.

Albert Lamorisse’s direction is superb staging a series of encounters with the boy, the balloon, and others that are utterly disarming. The streets and crowded alleyways of Paris are vividly captured as well as in any feature film set in this magical city. One special moment where a momentary flirtation with a blue balloon seems possible is particularly delightful. The story really edges into the surreal in an ending that defies description. Suffice to say it’s wildly colorful and equally memorable. Lamorisse won the 1956 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his story, an honor that’s even more surprising when noting that among the screenplays in competition that year were La Strada and The Ladykillers. The film is so unique and such a lark, however, that its victory in retrospect is reasonably understandable.

Pascal Lamorisse basically plays himself, full of wide-eyed innocence and determination to hold onto his prize, and he never betrays the obvious contraptions that had to exist in order to make the magic on-screen happen. His is a very impressive performance for that reason alone. It also makes the film a superlative one for families to watch together, in effect serving as perhaps a child’s first introduction to the world of international art films.

Video Quality


The film is presented in a glowing 1.33:1 Technicolor transfer. You won’t see reds more vibrant than the red of the title balloon, and skin tones are very natural and most appealing. True, lack of anamorphic enhancement accounts for the slightest line twitter in some wrought iron fencing, but other tight line structures like brickwork in the streets and siding on houses are solid and artifact-free. There’s one slight hair I suspect was part of the original camerawork. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful transfer. The very few English subtitles are printed in white and are easy to read. The film is divided into 9 chapters.

Audio Quality


The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track is free from hiss or other audible defects. The spritely and seductive music by Maurice Le Roux and the accompanying street sounds are perhaps too trebly and lack any substantial bass, but that’s the only complaint in an otherwise solid encoding.

Special Features


The package contains an insert with some beautiful and evocative color stills from the film as well as film notes by Michael Koresky and credit and chapter lists for reference.

The theatrical trailer for a double bill of The Red Balloon and White Mane (also offered for purchase this month by Janus Films) is presented in anamorphic widescreen (The Red Balloon does not suffer at all from the matting to make it widescreen; one almost wishes the film had been offered in both full screen and widescreen on the DVD) and runs 1½ minutes.

In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

One of the joys of the French cinema, The Red Balloon continues its effortless ability to charm decades after its original release. What a wonderful way to welcome the film to home video!

Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC



Jan 4, 2002
Wow, this was one of those staple "take up time" movies we watched frequently in elementary school. I may just have to pick it up for nostalgia purposes.


Senior HTF Member
Jan 6, 2004

I agree! I remember seeing this when we learned about France in grade school. Can't wait to get it to watch with my niece and nephew. However, I hear that later this year there is a full Criterion edition coming out with complete extras. Anyone got solid info on that?


Supporting Actor
Sep 2, 2019
Real Name
Albert Lamorisse's classic short remains a buoyant delight. The simplest of tales about a boy, a balloon and the streets of Paris. It has been a staple of children's film festivals for over 6 decades. An Oscar winner for Best Screenplay (the only short to do so). It has been an inspiration for countless imitators and inspired such features as Iranian dissident Jafar Panahi's White Balloon and Hsiao-Hsien Hou's Flight Of The Red Balloon. It's a charmer that makes any Saturday a little brighter and happier. Maurice Leroux' score became a hit album and a children's book soon followed.
Trivia: Director Lamorisse later invented the board game Risk.


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